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With an OK from the US president, the Pentagon this week launched cyberstrikes that took down Iranian computer networks used to control missile launches, says a report in The Washington Post, which cites unnamed people familiar with the matter. The news comes after Iran shot down a US surveillance drone it said was violating Iranian airspace. In response to the drone attack, the president had approved then pulled back from conventional military attacks on radar facilities, missile batteries and other targets in Iran.
But the Thursday night cyberstrikes against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had been in preparation for some time, the Post reported, saying the Pentagon proposed them after Iran allegedly attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier in June.
“This operation imposes costs on the growing Iranian cyberthreat, but also serves to defend the United States Navy and shipping operations in the Strait of Hormuz,” Thomas Bossert, a former senior White House cyberofficial in the Trump administration, told the Post.
“Our US military has long known that we could sink every IRGC vessel in the strait within 24 hours if necessary,” Bossert told the Post. “And this is the modern version of what the US Navy has to do to defend itself at sea and keep international shipping lanes free.”
Referring to the Iranians, an anonymous source told the paper that “this is not something they can put back together so easily.”
Cyberwarfare and cyberespionage aren’t new, but moves in these areas have grabbed headlines following Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and amid worries about Russian interference in the 2020 campaign. Other red flags have included Russia’s shutdown of part of Ukraine’s power grid in 2015, as well as reports that a Russian government-sponsored group had been able to gain access to the control rooms of US electric utilities in 2017.